In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Lingering in the background of the health care debate in Congress has been the possibility that Democrats won't be able to get as much as they want from Republicans through the normal legislative process and will be forced to advance reform (or elements of reform) through the reconciliation process, which can't be filibustered. That may be a remote possibility, but it significantly changes the political dynamic on the Hill--in absence of this alternative route, meeting the expected 60 vote threshold in the Senate would become, to a greater extent than it already is, the guiding force behind the process.

But ever since Democratic leaders won a battle (with Republicans and conservatives within their own party) to keep the reconciliation option open, they've been notably silent about it, and completely unwilling to wield the threat publicly. Today, Robert Gibbs went as far as anybody I can recall in recent weeks--but he also held his fire.

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Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie (D) has released this statement on apparent Sen.-elect Al Franken's (D) victory at the Minnesota Supreme Court:

I thank the Minnesota Supreme Court, the three-judge election contest panel, the State Canvassing Board, local election officials, and all campaign staff and volunteers for their extraordinary efforts in bringing this U.S. Senate election to its conclusion.

This unanimous opinion of the Court affirms the accuracy and fairness of Minnesota's election laws and recount procedures. As required by Minnesota law, I will co-sign the election certificate as soon as it is issued by Governor Tim Pawlenty.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican and a potential presidential candidate, has not yet released a statement.

I just asked a top Senate Democratic aide what the expectation is over there for the Minnesota Senate race, and whether Norm Coleman will concede and/or Al Franken will be finally declared the winner now that the Minnesota Supreme Court has ruled in Franken's favor.

"Based on everything we have seen so far, we assume this is moving towards closure once and for all," the source said. "Once the Secretary signs the certificate, and sends it to the Secretary of the Senate, we are prepared to swear in Sen.-elect Franken as early as possible next week."

Former Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) will be holding a press conference at 4 p.m. ET, reacting to today's ruling by the Minnesota Supreme Court that Democratic comedian Al Franken is the winner of the 2008 Senate race.

The big question is whether Coleman will concede the race, or instead try to fight on at the U.S. Supreme Court. It's been nearly six months since this Senate seat went vacant, stuck in the limbo of all this litigation. We could know today whether this is truly the end, or if instead this will keep on going.

Apparent Sen.-elect Al Franken (D-MN) will then give his own press conference at 5:15 p.m. ET.

Democratic National Committee chairman Tim Kaine has released this statement on Al Franken's victory at the Minnesota Supreme Court:

"On behalf of the Democratic National Committee, I congratulate Al Franken on his election to the United States Senate. Senator-Elect Franken must be seated as soon as possible. The people of Minnesota rightfully elected Al Franken to serve in the Senate and there is far too much work to be done for the state and the nation to drag this process on any longer."

"Today's ruling from the Minnesota Supreme Court marks the end of the line for Norm Coleman's legal battle. For too long, Minnesotans have been denied their proper representation in Congress while Norm Coleman pursued his political ambitions. In light of today's decision, Norm Coleman should concede and Governor Pawlenty should sign the election certificate which Al Franken is entitled to, and which he pledged to do upon guidance from the court. Doing so will finally put this saga to an end and give Minnesotans their full voice in the U.S. Senate."

It should be noted that Coleman's legal battle theoretically could keep going, if he were to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court and be able to get an injunction against certifying Franken's victory. That scenario doesn't seem too likely, but we'll see how this all plays out.

Speaking of Democratic votes, Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV), who has been hospitalized for weeks, has been released to recuperate at home.

Though it's unclear when exactly he'll be able to return to the Senate to vote, his absence--like Al Franken's--has complicated Democratic efforts to accomplish key goals, including confirming DOJ-nominee Dawn Johnsen.

Progressive group People for the American Way released this statement from their president, Michael B. Keegan:

It's taken quite a while, but Senator Franken's victory is now official. That's good news for Minnesotans and for all of us. Governor Pawlenty has said he would certify the election results, and he should do so immediately.

Senator Franken's victory should finally put to rest GOP threats to filibuster President Obama's agenda. With any luck, Senate Republicans will take this opportunity to stop obstructing the important work that needs to get done for the country and actually start helping to get it done.

The Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party has released this statement from chair Brian Melendez and associate chair Donna Cassutt, on Al Franken's victory today at the Minnesota Supreme Court:

"We offer our heartfelt congratulations once again to Senator-elect Franken, his wife Franni and their family. Throughout this long process, Minnesotans have seen what kind of senator Al Franken will be: determined, patient, thoughtful and ready to work for our state. Now it is time for the senator-elect to be seated so that Minnesota is once again fully represented in the United States Senate.

"The Supreme Court's ruling also proves that Minnesotans can take pride in our election process. The close vote, the long recount and the ensuing election contest may have confounded other states. But Minnesota has shown the nation that our system is meticulous, transparent and fair.

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has released this statement on Al Franken's victory at the Minnesota Supreme Court:

"I congratulate Senator-elect Al Franken, the next Senator from the state of Minnesota.

"The people of Minnesota will now finally get the brilliant and hardworking new senator they elected in November and the full representation they deserve. After all the votes have been counted and recounted, the Minnesota Supreme Court has made the final determination that Minnesotans have chosen Al Franken to help their state and our country get back on track.

"The Senate looks forward to welcoming Senator-elect Franken as soon as possible. He will play a crucial role as we work to strengthen our economy, ensure all Americans can access and afford quality health care, make our country more energy independent, confirm the President's outstanding nominee to the Supreme Court, and tackle the many other challenges we face.

"I once again encourage Governor Pawlenty to respect the votes of his constituents and the decisions of his state's highest court. He should put politics aside, follow his state's laws and finally sign the certificate that will bring this episode to an end."